Guide to Acing Your Residency Interview

You’re here. You’ve submitted your applications, you’ve paid the fees, and you’ve done everything you can to stand out on paper…and you got an interview invite! The residency interview is the next crucial step to matching into residency, so you want to be prepared to shine.

Make sure to read everything you should know about how to prepare before, what to expect during, and what to make sure to do after the interview.

Preparation BEFORE the interview

Do your homework. Learn about:

The program: Spend time researching the program’s history and make note of anything unique. When it’s your turn to ask questions, you have to demonstrate your genuine interest. Utilize the internet for additional research about the hospital and program. Using Match A Resident’s Interview Feedback Feature is a great place to start.

Program Director, Chief Resident, and Residents: Learn what you can about the people in the program. You can do this by reviewing the program’s website and social media accounts. Pay special attention to any hobbies or interests you may have in common. Do your best to memorize the names and faces, if possible. Making a good impression at the right time can be the difference in getting ahead of the pack.

Location: It’s important to become familiar with the area where the program is located. Read up on any important landmarks, what the weather is like, and lifestyle. This shows that you’ve thought about what it would be like to make your home in the area.

Review your MyERAS Application. Every experience you list in your ErasCV can become a topic of interest, which you should be able to discuss in some detail. Programs want to see that you can explain difficult topics in a simple way. Be sure you can talk about any awards or accomplishments you listed, volunteer experiences and how they’ve enriched your path, hobbies, and everything else you’ve submitted.

Review your Supporting Documents. The Personal Statement is a great place for programs to pull questions. Be sure you know yours well and that you feel comfortable discussing your story, qualities as a physician, and future goals. Being familiar with any Letters of Recommendation available to you is also to your benefit. It won’t bode well if you can’t reflect on your experiences with Dr. Smith, who wrote you a shining letter of referral.

Develop questions for the program. No interviewer wants to hear, “No,” when they ask if you have any questions for them. *Stay away from money, hours, and other superficial topics.

Practice…then practice some more!

There are many common questions you can be well-prepared to answer on interview day. These include:

–        Tell me about yourself

–        What are your strengths/weaknesses?

–        Why did you choose this specialty?

–        What do you want to do after residency?

–        Why are you interested in our program?

–        What is most important to you during residency?

–        Tell me about the last book you read

Use our Interview Prep service to learn how to answer interview questions, practice, and get AI feedback on your practice responses! Premium access also includes coaching sessions with an interview expert.

You’ll want to practice delivering your responses (out loud) as many times as possible.

The purpose of this is twofold: repetition helps you remember your key points, and it enables you to deliver them in a conversational way. When you first start practicing, you’ll likely sound like you’re reading from a script; the more times you repeat the answer, you’ll find your personality, quirks, and mannerisms slowly becoming part of the response. This is what leads to having a conversational tone during the interview, which is exactly what you should aim for.

  • Have mental bullet notes for application questions. While developing your answers for interview questions, do not memorize a full answer. Instead, create mental bulleted lists of notes, so you can speak more naturally.
  • Questions to ask in return.  Asking thoughtful questions about the program will not only demonstrate an interest in the program, but will also show you have been listening. It is important to remember, as much as you want to get into a residency program, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Use questions to better get to know the program.

*Check your Match A Resident Customized List to see if the program has any interview feedback for an exclusive glimpse of the program.

Be prepared for virtual interviews by checking your setup

There is a lot to think about when it comes to your virtual interview set up. The priorities are:

–        WiFi speed/reliability

–        Lighting (consistent source, flattering)

–        Audio/Camera (high quality, flattering angle)

–        Visual Background (clean, appropriately interesting)

–        Background noise (eliminating it)

Don’t wait until the day of your interview to set up. Set up your space and FaceTime with a friend or host your own Zoom meeting to see how things look. Make a recording, so you can review it and listen to the sound. After you feel confident about your set-up, make sure to schedule time to test it before every interview to ensure everything is working properly. Once this is out of the way, you’ll be able to relax and get into a positive mind frame before the interview begins.

Choose clothing that conveys a message

If you look polished and sophisticated, you’ll communicate that you are taking the opportunity seriously and that you understand professional norms.



Arrive early. Create a strong and positive impression from the start. For in-person interviews, show up at least 30 minutes early. Have contact information for someone in the program, just in case you get lost.

Smile and relax!

Countless studies indicate there are tremendous benefits of smiling.

For you: Smiling can help lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and release serotonin. Because interviewing is often a stressful endeavor, these calming effects alone give you every reason to smile.

For your interviewers: Your smile indicates that you’re friendly, confident, and excited about the interview—exactly the message you want to send.

During the interview, try to be aware of your body language.

Sit up straight and avoid unnecessary fidgeting and fiddling. Do your best to show confidence as well as receptiveness. This can be achieved by keeping your chest straight and your shoulders relaxed (a posture of having an “open heart”). Arrogance is never desirable. Do not lean aggressively forward or become too relaxed, slumping in your chair and splaying your legs apart! Throughout the interview day, you want your body to demonstrate how enthusiastic, honest and open you are. For example, keep your hands out of your pockets, leave your arms uncrossed and keep that good eye contact.

TIP: A great way to learn about your body language habits is to film yourself answering a question. While this can feel embarrassing or be hard to watch, it is one of the best ways to spot problem behavior and correct it. 

Know and be comfortable with yourself. When you get nervous, you may exhibit more unnatural habits. One must be knowledgeable about their body habits in order to properly keep them in check while interviewing. Ask yourself, “What are my nervous habits?” so you can monitor them throughout the day.

While speaking, consider how you are conveying your thoughts. Do your best to answer questions fully without rambling, show your enthusiasm for your experiences and goals, and always speak genuinely. If you get tripped up on words or taken off guard by a difficult question, smile, keep moving forward with the conversation and stay in the present moment.

Articulate your thoughts. The fewer fillers such as “Um, er, like, uhh, etc.” the better you will come across. Unfortunately, saying “like” often makes you come off as less mature and desirable from the program’s point of view. Additionally, try not to overcomplicate ideas or topics. A key part of being a doctor is explaining complex things in a simple way.

It is okay to pause and briefly reflect on difficult questions. It is better to appear thoughtful and introspective than to spit out whatever nonsense first comes to mind.

Be genuine and honest (meaning, be yourself!).

  • Remember, you are not on trial. The interview committee wants to get to know you to ensure you are a good personality fit as well as your skills.
  • Give examples to back up your what you are saying about yourself. If you say you’re a hard worker, prove it through your past experiences.
  • Display your outgoing nature. Programs like to see an active person with hobbies and interests outside of the hospital.

Remember, Interview Prep can help by reviewing your recorded answers and giving you specific feedback on your speech, tone, eye contact, and more.

Finally, use the last bit of your interview to really drive home a statement of interest. Make sure to tell your top program(s) why you want to be there, and remind them how much you want it! This can leave a lasting impression, which is crucial!

And remember, the common traits that programs are looking for are humility, team-players, confidence (not arrogance), inquisitiveness, passion, compassion, teachability, maturity, and determination, to name a few.



Prepare now for Successful Residency Ranking

What now? The Rank Assist feature in Match A Resident is a comprehensive survey that will ask you to assess very specific aspects of the program and your experiences. It is 100% vital to record as much as you can about your interview experiences NOW in order to have a successful residency Match. No matter how hard you try, the most important details will fade in your memory by the Rank Order List deadline in March.

After you’ve aced your residency interviews, send Thank You Letters to reinforce your interest in the program. You can read our tips for sending Thank You Letters here!

Of course, Match A Resident is also the #1 resource for Residency Interview Feedback. Be sure to leave your Interview Feedback to help the residency applicant community as a whole. Your input and experiences are invaluable to present and future applicants!

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